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Irwin Levitan, PhD

Contact Dr. Levitan

900 Walnut St.
Suite 467
Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 503-5996
(215) 955-5861 fax

Medical School

PhD, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

University Appointment

Professor and Chair, Department of Neuroscience (2010)
Director, Farber Institute for Neurosciences (2010)

Research and Clinical Interests

My laboratory is interested in the long term regulation of neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission. We study the molecular mechanisms that nerve cells use to modulate the activity of individual ion channels, since these mechanisms must contribute to long term changes in neuronal function and ultimately in behavior. The essence of our approach is a combination of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics and electrophysiology, at the level of individual neurons, synapses and ion channels. We study the electrophysiological properties of native channels in neurons, and of cloned channels expressed in heterologous host cells, using patch recording techniques. In parallel we carry out biochemical measurements of channel proteins, making use of specific antibodies directed against channel epitopes. An important theme that we are pursuing vigorously is the idea that channels do not exist on their own in the plasma membrane, but rather are part of a regulatory complex that includes signaling proteins that are involved in the modulation of channel function. For example, we have isolated a novel protein named Slob, which binds to and modulates the Slowpoke calcium-dependent potassium channel in the fruit fly Drosophila. We are investigating the molecular details and physiological significance of the dynamic interactions of Slob and other signaling proteins with several different kinds of potassium channels. One way we do this is by using genetics to introduce mutant channels and their binding partners into flies to ask questions about the roles of ion channel regulatory complexes in neuronal physiology and behavior.